Page images

so fit to commence that service which is to commemorate his death. We then offer to God the collect for purity, because, as in the book of Exodus,* when the people were about to hear the words of the law, Moses sanctified them, and commanded them to wash their clothes, as an emblem of purity; so we, as Christians, supplicate of the Lord to make us pure in heart, and sincere in intention, before we listen to the precepts of his holy will, “ lest," as says the apostle, “sin take occasion by the commandments to stir up an evil heart, because we had not known sin,” except the commandments had been given, “ I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”+ After this preparation, the ten commandments are recited, the people praying at the end of each that God may incline their hearts to keep them, - “Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.”

These ten commandments, as containing the moral law, are binding upon Christians as well as Jews, and the use of them in the celebration of the Eucharist is, of course, very plain. At our first communion with God in baptism, we were originally pledged to keep those very commandments; and now that a second, or renewed covenant is to be made, what more appropriate than to recite them once more, for

* Exod. xix. 14.

+ Rom. vii. 7.


the refreshing of our memories, and the clearer understanding of God's will ? At every communion of the Lord's Supper, we renew the vow and pledge of the first, and as we about to make new engagements for the future, and to confess at the same time the violation of those engagements in the past, the church prudently directs the minister now standing in the most holy place, i.e. the altar, to turn himself to the people, and from thence, like another Moses from Mount Sinai, to convey God's laws to them, by rehearsing, distinctly, all the ten commandments, by which, as in a glass, they may discover all their offences, and still kneeling, may, after every commandment, ask God's mercy for their past transgres


After the solemn recitation of God's will, we betake ourselves to prayer.

St. Paul directs, that the church is to pray for all persons in authority. The king, as the head of the church and nation, is the person to whom the charge of a due observance of God's law is committed. In the primitive church, according to this direction, they always offered a prayer for their rulers at the time of communion, because they considered that a supplication for public virtue, and national godliness, could not be more appropriately offered than at a time of mutual communion. We must, therefore, consider these prayers offered for the king, coming so immediately after the recitation of the moral law, as offered not so much for his personal welfare, as for the preservation of public virtue by his authority as chief magistrate, so that he may (in the words of the prayer) “study to preserve the people committed to his charge, in wealth, peace, and godliness."

* Wheatly, Com. Pray. p. 272.

We next proceed to the collect, gospel, and epistle of the day. These being selections from the New Testament, follow very appropriately the commandments, which are selections from the Old Testament, and they are in exact accordance with the Jewish custom, at the passover, of reading over that portion of their history which detailed their deliverance from Egypt. We read in the book of Exodus, “It shall come to pass when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses."* Here is the reason of the service. So we in the epistle and gospel set forth the reason of our passover.

We read some portion of holy scripture, for the sake of recording our great deliverance from the bondage of sin. At the epistle we sit, at the gospel we stand, as making our reverence for

* Exod. xii. 26.


[blocks in formation]


[ocr errors]


that portion of scripture more especially alluding to the history or words of Jesus himself. Before the gospel, we in general sing or say, “Glory be to thee, O Lord,” or “Glory be to thee, O Lord, most High :” and in many churches, after the gospel, there is also said, “ Thanks be to thee, O Lord.”

Our next business is the creed. Having solemnly considered God's will, both in the former and the latter revelation ; having lieved with our heart unto righteousness,” we naturally “confess with our mouth unto salvation;" and just as in the law, our business was to renew our baptismal vow, again, as one branch of that vow was to believe all the articles of the Christian faith ;" it is therefore quite appropriate that, before we be admitted to the privileges of the renewed covenant, we should declare openly, in the face of the church, that we abide firm and unchanged in the professions originally made; in order that we may go to God's altar with all those great and solemn doctrines of Christianity fresh in our minds, our souls intent on the nature of that Being, whom we adore as God the Father, through whom we

pray as God the Son, and by whose aid and holy influence we are sanctified, God the Holy Ghost.*

[ocr errors]

It is observed by Mede, that all the prayers in the sacramental service are addressed to God the Father, which

Thus ends the first part, or pre-communion; and on such days as the celebration of the Lord's Supper has been announced, the sermon being concluded, and that part of the congregation who refuse to partake of the remainder of the service having retired, we again return to the altar. And here we cannot but imagine, in our view, the multitudes who invariably retire at this portion of the service; the few, the faithful few, who endure with Christ unto the end. That there

That there may be some, who from accidental or domestic circumstances cannot be present on every day at which the sacrament is administered, we must all be ready to allow : but that there should be so many who invariably, and without exception, pass by God's table, month after month, is certainly a matter of surprise. From the pulpit, the minister of God, the pastor under Jesus Christ, beholds the chosen flock of his heavenly Master deserting his fold, and wandering to the wilder

accords with the decree of the third council of Carthage : “No one in his prayers should name the Father for the Son, or the Son for the Father, and when we stand at the altar, all our addresses must be made to the Father.

6. The reason is, that the Father is properly the object to whom, the Son, by whom, we pray in this mystical service ; and, therefore, to direct our prayers and thanksgivings to the Son, would pervert the order of the mystery, which is an oblation of prayer and praise to God the Father, through the intercession of Jesus Christ, represented in the symbols of bread and wine.”—Mede on the Christian Sacrifice, sect. iii.

« PreviousContinue »